1 September 2014

Ticked off

One of the first things we do on holiday is visit a tourist information centre to pick up leaflets about local attractions. On our last trip, to Exmoor, one rather alarming publication caught my eye: Tick Bites and Lyme Disease.

Now, I'd heard of both ticks and Lyme Disease - caused by bites from infected ticks - but I'd never worried about either of them before. If you live in Britain, it's not often that you have to concern yourself with the fauna, unless you have a particular allergy, such as to bee stings. We don't have the likes of venomous funnel-web spiders creeping indoors, bears invading backyards, or malaria-carrying mosquitoes plaguing the air. 

In fact, great swathes of the world will remain forever unexplored by me due to their animal inhabitants. Yet suddenly, it seemed, there was a danger closer to home.

I picked up the pamphlet and scanned the text. All I absorbed initially were the scariest words - 'rash...up to 50-75 centimetres diameter', 'facial palsy' and 'cardiac problems' - rather than the reassurances that early use of antibiotics should prevent such serious complications.

Having now added 'bug anxiety' to my list of things to worry about, I went on to read the Prevention section...and immediately re-thought my holiday wardrobe.

Image courtesy of dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The advice was to cover yourself up as much as possible, with long sleeves (cuffs fastened) and trousers (tucked into socks) the order of the day. This uniform of sealed clothes was required in 'grassy, brushy or woodland areas'. Brushy? I'm hopeless at botany and had no idea what that meant.

So, as we marched up a steep moorland hill to Dunkery Beacon, a few days later, I suspiciously eyed the vegetation either side of the path. Was this what they meant by brushy, and were ticks preparing to leap on me from all sides?

On another sweltering afternoon, as we enjoyed our picnic lunch next to Wimbleball Lake, I decided to tuck my walking trousers into my socks - well, we were sitting on grass, weren't we? We have, of course, done that on innumerable occasions in the past, but that was beside the point. I was prepared to turn myself into a one-woman sauna this time, to prevent any of those marauding creatures from latching onto me.

I drew the line at checking myself every three to four hours for ticks, as suggested. The darned things are so small, that, with my eyesight, I doubted I'd even spot one. And I also decided against investing in a tick extractor tool - available in pet shops across the region - though I'm now wondering whether to add one to my holiday packing list.

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, particularly when you're an anxiety sufferer. On the other hand, forewarned is forearmed. A few days on, I resolved that, rather than spend the week worrying about ticks, I should simply keep an eye out for the early symptoms of Lyme Disease. Only to discover that these can occur up to 30 days after being bitten. It was going to be a long wait for reassurance...

That was just over six weeks ago and I'm still in one piece, so now all I have to worry about is my next escape from the city - anyone know what beasties will be waiting for us in Lincolnshire next month?


Anonymous said...

Great post, Helen (with a super title :)). It really is hard to find that right balance between being cautious and obsessing, isn't it? Lyme Disease is quite prevalent where I live, but I just try not to think about it and keep an eye out for tics on me and/or early symptoms. I don't want to spend my life indoors!

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, ocdtalk - indeed, we can't become agoraphobic because of a few unpleasant bugs!